Although trends in education are moving away from lecture-based instruction and embracing a more interactive, student-centered form of education, getting students to actively and willingly engage in classroom discussion can still be a battle. It’s easy for us to forget that students have a colossal fear of public speaking. Not only are they afraid of being wrong or “stupid,” but they are also afraid of having to verbally articulate their ideas on the fly.
This fear of public speaking (coupled with ongoing assessment trends) is, in part, why many teachers are making a case for using Student response systems, or clicker technology. Clickers allow students to silently chime in during lectures or respond to multiple choice and simple yes-or-no questions posed by the teacher. The instant—not to mention anonymous and accurate insight—gathered from student response systems can be used by the instructor to guide and assess student learning.
Yes, but do they work?
Skeptics of student response systems have suggested that they are gimmicky. Why though? Like any activity, clickers simply need to be tied to a clear objective. Obviously, overuse, or use not targeted to student learning, can diminish the true effectiveness of the tool.
It is important to understand that student response systems are tools used to enhance student engagement and achievement. They should not be used as a standalone activity. Having a clear focus for how student response systems will support learning is crucial for maintaining their effective presence in the classroom.
There are many ways to use student response systems that are beneficial to both students and teachers:
After students submit their answers to a specific question, the teacher can refer to the histogram report to monitor overall understanding. If a majority of responses were incorrect, s/he can instruct students to discuss the question with one another. The entire class will submit their answers again, hopefully recording a higher percentage of correct answers.
Teachers can use the data provided by the student response systems to gauge, in real-time, what students understand and what concepts need further instruction. This allows the teacher to adjust the instructional period to best meet student needs.
Instead of waiting until the end of an instructional unit to assess student achievement, a teacher can use the system to periodically monitor understanding. Utilizing student response systems can help with quick assessments without impacting instructional time.
There's a wealth of available information online regarding the use of student response systems. Here are two other resources to consider:
From Educase Learning Initiative: 7 Things You Should Know About Clickers
By A. Louis Abrahamson: Teaching with Classroom Communication System - What it Involves and Why it Works
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